While working on the interview of our friend Dr. Sridhar Gutam, we identified (with his precious help) a person that played a key role in the development of ICAR’s first Open Access journal; an agricultural researcher with a long history and achievements throughout his career. We were curious to learn more about this person, Dr. Satyabrata Maiti, and after an initial communication we have now the honor to publish a short interview on the role of Open Access in agricultural research.
1. Can you please share some info on your education and studies?
I did my Bachelor of Science in Agriculture [B. Sc (Ag.)] in 1971 from Agra University; Master of Science in Agriculture [M.Sc (Ag.)] in Plant Pathology in 1973 from Kalyani University and Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D) in Agriculture in Plant Pathology from Bidhan Chandra Krishi Viswavidyalaya (Bidhan Chandra Agricultural University) in 1978 . All my education was in India. I was all through first class and rank holders in my B. Sc (Ag.) and M. Sc (Ag.) examinations.
2. What was your last affiliation?
I retired as Director in April 2014 from an Indian Council of Agricultural Research Institute (Directorate of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research) dedicated to Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (MAPs) Research after serving it for 15+ years.
3. Would you like to introduce us to the Directorate of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants Research (DMAPR) of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)? What has been your role & responsibilities?
Medicinal plant sector is having a long supply chain starting from either cultivation or collection to marketing, raw drug distribution, primary and advanced processing, drug development, drug validation, drug introduction in the market, etc. those are handled by several stakeholder players. Success of the sector thus depends on the efficient functioning like symphony in an orchestra. ICAR contributes in this sector in the very basic link of quality raw drug supply by research in its core competence area of agriculture such as varietal improvement, development of good agricultural practices for assuring quality raw drug supply, quality assessment, quality supply of planting material, etc. The emerging challenges and opportunities demand for an innovation driven research system using modern tools of ICT, biotechnology, molecular biology, biochemistry, etc to link with all the stak holders in the entire MAP supply chain. I as a research manager was steering these responsibilities.
4. You have been an active agricultural researcher. What is your opinion on Open Access to research outcomes and what was your contribution to the Open Access movement in India?
When I joined as research manager, I had about 22 years experience of active research and also about 11 years experience in coordinating research in All India Coordinated projects having partners in State Agricultural Universities. During my journey I could realize that Science and research cannot be kept in a closed container. It has to be made freely available to other workers, if real values of research are to be harnessed. When I joined as the Director, Open Access movement was its infancy. I realized it potential and encouraged it in my institute and we decided to be a partner in this movement. Fortunately, young Dr. Gutam Sridhar joined in our institute and we planned for a truly Open Access Journal of Medicinal and Aromatic Plants (OAJMAP). This was launched it in 2010 and I worked as its first Editor-in-Chief till it’s first issue of Volume 6 No1 (2015). It is also the first Open Access journal in ICAR system. Subsequently, many of ICAR journals became open access over a period of time. My experience is: it is challenging and still more openness is required.
5. What were the challenges that a researcher like your was facing on a daily basis, regarding the dissemination of his/her research outcomes? What kind of issues did you face and how did you overcome them?
A list of the challenges that I encountered in this context were the following:
(1) ICAR refused to give financial support for OAJMAP as ICAR gives to many societies for publishing journals since it does not publish hard copy.
(2) National Academy of Agricultural Sciences (NAAS) refused to give its rating for want of hard copy of the journal for their evaluation. NASS rating is considered for recruitment and promotion of Agricultural Research Scientists.
(3) Scientists are still skeptical in publishing their good work in newly formed open access journals as a result I was facing difficulty in getting good number of manuscripts for each issue.
6. You have been recently retired, after a really long and fruitful career; how are you currently involved in agricultural research? Do you still follow related activities and/or support young researchers in their work?
Just after my retirement I was fortunate to be involved in offering my expertise in Bangladesh as International Consultant of ADB for their Second Crop Diversification Project for two years and just returned after project tenure is over. I am now again involved in a FAO project for a short consultancy in China for Safe Vegetable Production. One of my students has to finish her Ph.D degree shortly. I am keenly observing the developments of open access and wish to participate for its promotion if opportunity comes.
7. Is there anything else that you would like to add?
One Caution I want to put before the open access environment that is please do not dump the garbage of scientific research in the open access bin. Consider it as an opportunity and post only the valuable material that will promote the further research in the benefit of mankind.
We would like to thank Dr. Maiti for taking the time to respond to our questions and we hope that we will have the opportunity to be involved in joint activities in the near future.